TIME movies

HBO Planning Scientology Documentary

Alex Gibney Portrait Session - The 70th Venice International Film Festival
Director Alex Gibney poses during a portrait session at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 4, 2013 in Venice. Gareth Cattermole—Getty Images

Academy Award winner Alex Gibney is directing a documentary about Scientology and Hollywood for HBO, EW has confirmed. Set to air in 2015, the documentary is based on investigative reporter Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Going Clear grew out of a 2011 New Yorker profile of Paul Haggis, who left the Church.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, which was the first to report the news, Gibney is “putting the finishing touches” on the film. HBO, meanwhile, is bracing for pushback and protest from the Church. “We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film],” HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told THR.

Gibney is known for his films like Taxi to the Dark Side, for which he won an Oscar, and recently We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and the Lance Armstrong documentary The Armstrong Lie.

This article originally appeared on Entertainment Weekly

TIME faith

Forget the War on Christmas, There’s a Real War on Thanksgiving

Black Friday message on calendar
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Consumerism pulls us away from the holiday's life-affirming experience

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

The “War on Christmas” is nothing more than a distraction. It’s part of a war-on-the-holidays shell game – a misdirect. While the religious right is up in arms about people saying “happy holidays,” the real battle is being fought on Thanksgiving.

You? You’re watching the wrong shell.

We all are.

And we are losing the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and its origins have a long and slightly contested history. The thread that runs through all those histories and origins is the thread of giving thanks for what we have. Hence, “Thanksgiving.”

We Americans are so clever, aren’t we?

The thing is, we are slowly losing that essential ingredient of giving thanks in the way we go about our Thanksgiving celebrations and it’s a big problem.

Thankfulness for what we have is essentially the holiday’s umami. Umami is one of the five basic tastes. It rounds out our culinary experience making it fuller and giving it an enjoyable, lasting aftertaste.

Appreciation for what we have does the same for Thanksgiving: it makes it a fuller experience, and it carries the enjoyment far into the future.

In many ways, it’s a life affirming experience.

Thanksgiving is becoming something much less than that because of consumerism. Consumerism pulls us further and further away from that life-affirming experience. Consumerism is serving as a giant turkey baster, sucking out the essential goodness of our Thanksgivings and basting the bottom lines of big-box stores with it instead.

With so many stores now opening their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, the irony couldn’t be any clearer.

It’s as if they are taunting us with it.

And us? We are completely buying it.

Literally.

On a day about being thankful for what we have, many people will be rushing out to buy more stuff. Seriously, the irony of it all is thicker than week old, refrigerated gravy.

Rather than enjoying time spent with family or friends, people will rush out to battle strangers in an effort to buy more distractions. Distractions from what they already have. Distractions from what really matters in life. Distractions from time spent with others.

There is a war on Thanksgiving and the average American is slowly losing it and so many of us don’t even see that it’s happening. The tryptophan-induced malaise from a turkey holds nothing over the disconnect induced by the media’s constant bombardment of us with messages telling us we will not be happy unless we are gathering in more stuff.

Thanksgiving as a celebration and as a day of appreciation for what we already have is a threat to all of those who profit from our purchases. They are so threatened that just a single day a year set aside to be satisfied with what we have gives them the heebie-jeebies like a child at the kids’ table who’s just been served Brussel sprouts.

The profiteers see this Thanksgiving as their D-Day. D-Day on Turkey Day. This is their Normandy. They have finally made landfall and have started to swing the momentum of the battle. In making the comparison, I do not mean to take lightly the lives lost nor the reason for D-Day. I make the comparison to suggest exactly how seriously those who are waging the war on Thanksgiving are taking it.

At the same time, I am aware of those who need to work on Thanksgiving and those who do not get a paid day off. I am equally aware of those who do not have family or friends or much for which to be thankful. The solution, however, is not ramping up a buying fury which requires even those who would like to celebrate Thanksgiving at home to come in to work. The solution is to have better hiring practices. The solution is to pay a living wage. The solution is for companies to show their thankfulness for their employees by giving them a paid holiday on Thanksgiving – on that day of all days.

The shell game continues. Shouts of “war on Christmas” started even before cute little ghouls and ghosts made their way around our neighborhoods on Halloween.

As the two sides of that war powered up their bullhorns to shout their messages back and forth (of which, I too am a contributor), the war machines of Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and so many more fired up their printing presses and spat out their consumer propaganda in full color flyers for our Sunday papers.

I choose to be a conscientious objector on this Thanksgiving Day.

I will not take part in the consumerism frenzy – not even the day after. As a matter of fact, instead of giving money to profiteers, I’ll be giving a donation to a fair wage or worker’s rights organization. I invite you to do the same!

So, on second thought, I’m mounting a protest – a sit-in, if you will. It will take place around my table and around yours. Join us! Let us gather together in chants of “we will not be moved” – and not just because the tryptophan’s kicked in.

If we stand, let us stand for those who do not have enough on this day. Let us stand for those who need shelter or companionship rather than standing in line waiting for the store doors to open so that those who already have enough can have more. Let us stand for those who deserve to be paid a fair wage, and let us stand for those who deserve to have time-off to celebrate this day.

Mark Sandlin is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Science

What You Didn’t Know About William Jennings Bryan. What You Should Know About Darwin

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William Jennings Bryan, center, arrives at Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. AP

Enthusiasm for improving the human race could have negative consequences

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This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The action of the North Carolina legislature to pay compensation to victims of a forced sterilization program brings attention to an almost forgotten chapter of American history. It may also provide an opportunity to set the infamous Scopes trial in a broader light and do justice to the much-maligned William Jennings Bryan for his role in that case.

The sterilizations that were carried out in so many American states were a direct result of Charles Darwin’s writing on the theory of evolution, writings which alarmed William Jennings Bryan and led him to campaign against it being taught in American schools. Bryan was no theologian but an intensely practical man concerned with consequences. His goal in life was to make the world a better place and he believed that teaching evolution would not do that. In one area at least he was right.

Darwin followed up his publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 with a second book, The Descent of Man, published in 1871. Bryan had prepared a long statement for the Scopes trial but the trial came to an end before he could enter it in the record. In his statement, he quoted from The Descent of Man, in which Darwin had written:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick: we institute poor laws and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to smallpox. Thus the weak members of civilized society propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but, excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.45

Bryan was appalled. Darwin, he wrote,

. . . reveals the barbarous sentiment that runs through evolution and dwarfs the moral nature of those who become obsessed with it. Let us analyze the quotation just given. Darwin speaks with approval of the savage custom of eliminating the weak so that only the strong will survive, and complains that “we civilized men do our utmost to check the process of elimination.” How inhuman such a doctrine as this! He thinks it injurious to “build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick” or to care for the poor. Even the medical men come in for criticism because they “exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment.” And then note his hostility to vaccination because it has “preserved thousands who, from a weak constitution would, but for vaccination, have succumbed to smallpox!” All of the sympathetic activities of civilized society are condemned because they enable “the weak members to propagate their kind.” . . . Could any doctrine be more destructive of civilization? And what a commentary on evolution! He wants us to believe that evolution develops a human sympathy that finally becomes so tender that it repudiates the law that created it and thus invites a return to a level where the extinguishing of pity and sympathy will permit the brutal instincts to again do their progressive (?) work! . . . Let no one think that this acceptance of barbarism as the basic principle of evolution died with Darwin. ( Memoirs, p. 550)

Bryan’s concern was with practical outcomes, not “What do Christians believe?” but “What difference does it make?” Evolution seemed to him to be making the wrong kind of difference, and in his time it often did. The development of what is now called “Social Darwinism” is far too complex to be dealt with fairly in this brief article, but German militarism in World War One seems to have been influenced by it and the Turkish genocide of Armenians was justified by some on the same grounds.

The same enthusiasm for improving the human race called “eugenics” led a majority of the states to pass laws allowing the sterilizing and castrating of selected populations, typically prisoners and those with reduced mental abilities. California, in particular, carried out thousands of sterilizations. Unnoticed at the time of the Scopes trial was the publication in the same year, 1925, of Mein Kampf in which Adolf Hitler called for the improvement of the race by the elimination of inferior people: Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally retarded, and others. Once the full significance of that program became visible at the end of World War Two, eugenics and social Darwinism took on a different appearance and the interest in improving the human race by those methods withered away.

The ongoing struggle over the teaching of evolution in American classrooms and courthouses seems now to be confined to a conflict between what scientists believe and what some Christians believe but unfortunately William Jennings Bryan’s role in the Scopes trial is caricatured in those same terms. Undoubtedly Bryan had a simplistic view of the Bible, but the cause Bryan was championing was one with which most Americans today would probably agree: human beings are not to be treated as mere tools in some gigantic experiment. Human progress is created when societies find new and better ways to incorporate the weakest and most handicapped as fully as possible in the life of their community. The North Carolina legislature has taken an important step in recognizing a wrong turn in its past and has set an example for many other states to follow.

Perhaps it is time also to rescue William Jennings Bryan’s reputation from the stain of the Scopes trial. He was not a brilliant and original thinker but he was a man who consistently worked for the weaker members of society and set the Democratic party on the side of those who were being left behind in the free-for-all evolutionary struggle of the age of industrialization.

Christopher L. Webber is an Episcopal priest and author of some thirty books including “American to the Backbone,” the biography of the fugitive slave and abolition leader, James W.C. Pennington. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the General Theological Seminary who has served parishes in Tokyo, Japan, and the New York area and currently lives in San Francisco. The work of William Jennings Bryan is dealt with more fully in Christopher Webber’s book, “Give Me Liberty: Speeches and Speakers that Shaped America,” Pegasus, 2014.

TIME faith

Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Will Tear Us Apart

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President Barack Obama meets with business leaders on immigration reform on June 24, 2013 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images

Russell Moore is President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Acting unilaterally threatens an emerging consensus

I disagree with President Barack Obama’s decision to act unilaterally on immigration policy. I am for immigration reform, for all sorts of reasons that I have outlined elsewhere. The system we have is incoherent and unjust. I have worked hard to try to see the system changed, and will continue to do so. It’s because of my support for immigrants and for immigration reform that I think President Obama’s executive actions are the wrong way to go.

On more than one occasion, I asked President Obama not to turn immigration reform into a red state/blue state issue. People across the political spectrum support fixing this system, and it shouldn’t be a partisan wedge issue. I also asked him not to act unilaterally, but to work for consensus through the legislative process. To his credit, he did just that for a long while, and the Republican Congress took no action. He also told me, and others, that his patience was not endless on this.

Now the President says that he is out of patience and that he will use executive authority to achieve some of the goals of immigration reform. We can debate whether the President has the authority to undertake these actions unilaterally, but, regardless, this is an unwise and counterproductive move.

Yes, the Republican House has done nothing—up to this point. I am as frustrated with that as anyone. But as we all know, there is a new reality in Washington, with Republicans now the majority in both houses of Congress. The Republicans have said that they want to demonstrate that they can govern, and that they want to find areas where they can work together with the White House. Why not give them the opportunity to do so?

Over the past several years, a remarkable consensus has emerged on immigration reform, uniting the left, right and center. I am often in meetings in which those of us at the table can agree on almost literally nothing else. The business community, agriculture, law enforcement, religious constituencies and immigrant advocacy groups have come to this question with unique but overlapping points of concern. There are few Americans who think the system works as it is, and there is little support for deporting 11 million people from this country. This consensus is one to cultivate, not to tear apart.

Acting unilaterally threatens that consensus, and is the wrong thing to do. Even those who support broad executive action (including many friends of mine) acknowledge that the actions won’t solve the problem, only a legislative solution will. My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President’s actions here to be a pretext for remaning in the rut of the status quo. Too many people are harmed by this broken system, many of them our brothers and sisters in Christ. The lives of immigrant families, made in the image of God, are too important for political gamesmanship.

More importantly, I pray that our churches will transcend all of this posing and maneuvering that we see in Washington. Whatever our agreements and disagreements on immigration policy, we as the Body of Christ are those who see every human life as reflecting the image of God. Immigrant communities are a great blessing not only to this country, but to our churches. Many of the most anointed churches in evangelism and ministry are led by immigrants to this country.

Whatever our political disagreements, we ought to continue to stand with them, and to see to it that the immigrants among us are welcomed and loved. Whatever happens in the White House, our churches must press on with ministry and mission.

Russell Moore is President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral concerns and public policy entity of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Prior to his election in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also taught theology and ethics. Moore is the author of several books, includingAdopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches and Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. A native Mississippian, he and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Vatican Strengthens Ties with Evangelicals and Mormons Against Gay Marriage

Pope Francis general audience
Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter square, Vatican City, Nov. 19, 2014. Osservatore Romano/EPA

New alliances formed in Rome this week

In a month when papal conversation about marriage has been all the rage, the Vatican is enlisting a new set of allies to support its commitment to marriage between a man and a woman: American evangelicals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This week the Vatican hosted a three-day, international, interreligious colloquium called Humanum, “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium.” Its goal was to “propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman.” Speakers came from nearly two dozen countries and a variety of religious traditions, including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Taoists.

The presence of American evangelicals and the LDS Church was particularly notable. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, each gave speeches, and representatives from the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council in Washington attended. President Henry Eyring of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first presidency spoke and Elder Tom Perry of the LDS’s Quorum of the Twelve also joined. In the United States, this trio of faiths has worked together to stand against the government’s Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but it was the first time they were coming together at the Vatican to talk about marriage.

The colloquium rallied around the theological concept of complementarianism, the belief that men and women have different roles in a marriage and religious leadership—husbands are spiritual leaders, and wives submit to them in love. To be “complementary” is to complete or fill the lack in the other thing. It opposes egalitarianism, the theological belief that men and women are equal in all respects in marriage and in religious leadership positions. Traditional Catholic, evangelical, and LDS belief interprets the Bible to support a complementarian relational structure. That may explain why mainline Protestant traditions that interpret the Bible to an egalitarian end—Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ—were not featured at the event.

Pope Francis did not spearhead the colloquium, as many casual observers might think. It was organized and led by German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a strong conservative voice at the Pope’s Synod on the Family last month. Müller is the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican group that sponsored the event. Still, Pope Francis gave an opening address to attendees, in which he affirmed the Church’s teaching that children have a right to a mother and a father.

Skepticism about the other’s faith tends to run deep between Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons. In strict economic terms, the three faiths all compete for followers. They are heavily missionizing, and often they evangelize precisely in ways that distinguish themselves apart from the other faiths. But the Protestant work ethic runs deep in both evangelical and Mormon culture, as does deep commitment to faith convictions that the outside world may not understand. The gathering signals that some Vatican leaders recognize that banding together to support marriage as between one man and one woman may be a smart strategy going forward, especially as they have been standing separately against the western world’s changing sexual mores.

On paper, the colloquium concluded with an affirmation of marriage. “For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter,” it reads. “It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate….This we affirm.”

But in practice, it ended with something more significant—a strengthening of alliances. The event forged and deepened relationships across faith lines. “This group differs on many points—theological and political—but we agree that marriage matters,” says Moore, who walked around the Vatican with a copy of Luther’s 95 Theses in his coat pocket, a symbol of Protestantism’s break with Rome 500 years ago. “The colloquium started a conversation of groups on virtually every continent and virtually every religious tradition on how we can work together for the common good of marriage.”

For Eyring, of the LDS Church, the event marks a beginning. “They are talking about how are we going to get the word out and what more can we do. They want to do more,” he told the Deseret News. “It’s been amazing how receptive they have been to us,” Perry added, describing relationship he has been developing with Catholic leaders. “I think that we’ve developed a relationship now that they recognized that we have the strength and our structure in our organization that can reach out in a way that other churches do not have.”

American evangelical leaders say they are also leaving hopeful of the journey ahead. “The content of the colloquium was important, but perhaps more so were the connections made between people who share come concerns but who didn’t know each other before,” Moore says. “I am leaving the colloquium much more optimistic than I was when I arrived.”

Adds Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council: “The atmosphere was almost euphoric as the attendees from six of the world’s seven continents broke from the historic gathering to return to their respective nations renewed in their stand for marriage,” he says. “The courts may declare otherwise, and Hollywood may depict its demise, but the union of a man and a woman as the natural and enduring definition of marriage will endure until the end.”

TIME faith

Christian Colleges Need to Remember Their Biblical Values

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Our trans community deserves our love, too

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Title IX protection of transgender students on college campuses is clashing with Christian colleges’ claimed right to religious expression. What to do?

How do we accommodate trans students and protect these colleges’ stated values? It’s a huge question, and it’s not going away.

This Huffington Post piece gives an overview of the battle in many university campuses, including George Fox, Simpson and Spring Arbor.

In a letter to the Department of Education, interim Simpson President Dr. Robin Dummer wrote that the school cannot “support or encourage” an individual who lives in “conflict with biblical principles,” noting that students who violate campus standards for biblical living are subject to disciplinary measures, including expulsion. For example, Simpson would not permit a “female student presenting herself as a male” to use the restroom, locker room and living accommodations of her choice or to participate in men’s athletic programs, Dummer wrote.

Alright, got it. Dummer wants to protect Biblical principles. He did not specify which Biblical principles he means, but I don’t think he included all the relevant principles values in his letter — I found a few more.

  1. 1 Samuel 16:7 People look at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. We do not know others’ hearts, we can only guess. God sees things we do not see. You may think that being transgender is just an act of defiance or something you can stop by drawing a line in the sand. But God sees more than we do, which is one reason God does not tell us to draw those lines.
  2. Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Why are we so quick to condemn when God does not condemn? Do we know better?
  3. Matthew 7:3-5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” That’s really the point. We have so much going on, so much we don’t understand, so much we give a pass on for ourselves but not for others, that we really are in no place to ever determine right and wrong. It goes all the way back to the Tree of Knowledge.
  4. Luke 18:13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ This is to be our posture. Humility. Gratitude. Love. Period.
  5. Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;And what does the Lord require of you
 but to do justice, to love kindness,And to walk humbly with your God? Could that be stated any better? It is enough to fill our plates for the rest of our lives.
  6. Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” If you were transgender, you would not want your school to draw the lines you are drawing — no doubt about it. And to think you could not be there, well here’s another verse for you.
  7. 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Figure out a way to make this work for your transgender students. Don’t just stand on your predetermined ideas here. Be tenderhearted toward these people. Sympathize with what they must deal with and all they have gone through. If they were just being belligerent to cause trouble, that would be one thing, but they are not.

Clearly, these Biblical values are not part of many Christian college policies towards transgender students – all stated “in Jesus name.” And they are not part of how much of the church treats anyone they deem as somehow “less than.”

Why not?

If you understand transgender students, or any human being from a place of humility, God might indeed show you something you have not yet seen.

At the very least, you would glimpse God’s heart toward God’s children.

That reflects true Biblical Values and the “astoundingly good news” that is the gospel.

Susan Cottrell is a speaker, author of Mom, I’m Gay—Loving Your LGBTQ Child without Sacrificing Your Faith, and founder of FreedHearts.org.

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TIME faith

Pope Francis Is Selling His Fiat Car in a Raffle for the Poor

Pope Francis Attends His Weekly Audience In St Peter's Square
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of his weekly audience on November 19, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During his speech Pontiff appealed for peace in the Middle East. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images) Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican said it is raffling off objects that the Pontiff has received as gifts

Pope Francis’ four-wheel-drive Panda Fiat is just one of a collection of items the Vatican is raffling off to raise money for charity.

Posters around the Vatican announced the raffle will also include his Homero Ortega brand hat, bicycles, and an espresso coffee machine, Reuters reports, among 13 objects and 30 unspecified “consolation prizes.”

Tickets on sale at the Vatican will cost $12.50, and the winner will be announced on Jan. 8. The Vatican announced last week that Pope Francis, who has made fighting poverty a priority, was building bathrooms for the homeless in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

The Jonestown Massacre, Remembered

Jonestown Massacre Map
From the Dec. 4, 1978, issue of TIME TIME

Nov. 18, 1978: More than 900 people die after drinking poisoned Flavor Aid under instructions from cult leader Jim Jones

Rumors had already spread that Jim Jones’ socialist community in the Guyana jungle was no utopia. There were reports that followers had been strong-armed into staying put — some of them forced to sign false confessions that they had molested their own children, so that they would lose their kids if they left the colony. Others were beaten for infractions such as not paying sufficient attention to Jones’ sermons.

But it was on this day, Nov. 18, in 1978, that Jones earned his reputation as a tyrannical cult leader responsible for the deaths of more than 900 people — beginning with the murders of a California Congressman and several journalists who had come to Jonestown to investigate reports of abuse, and ending with the deaths of his own followers, whom he instructed to drink purple Flavor Aid laced with cyanide. As the map from TIME’s 1978 report on the massacre (above) made clear, few escaped.

How had he come so far from seemingly noble intentions? His followers had initially been attracted by his humanitarianism, beginning in the Civil Rights era, when, according to The Atlantic, he helped integrate churches, hospitals, restaurants and theaters. His vision for Jonestown — where nearly 1,000 white, black, and Latino members of his religious movement had relocated from California — was one of racial harmony and equality rooted in communism, according to a former follower, Teri Buford O’Shea, who escaped just weeks before the mass murders and suicides.

“As O’Shea tells it, Jones’ idealism was a large part of what made him so lethal,” The Atlantic explains. “He tapped into the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and 1970s, feeding on people’s fears and promising to create a ‘rainbow family’ where everyone would truly be equal.”

But there was something off about Jones even in his early days, according to Tim Reiterman, one of the journalists who was nearly killed in Guyana on this day 36 years ago. In a 2008 interview with TIME, Reiterman said he believed good and evil had always coexisted in the charismatic leader.

“Jones sought out acceptance and a sense of family through churches, but at the same time he had a tremendous need for power and control,” Reiterman said. “He would conduct little church services [as a child] up in the loft of a barn and lock his playmates in there.”

Jones’ ability to exert control became so substantial that O’Shea recalled, “The first time I met him, I was convinced he could read minds, cast spells, do all kinds of powerful things, both good and evil. I was afraid of him and stayed afraid of him for seven years.”

The good in Jim Jones eroded with drug use at Jonestown, O’Shea told The Atlantic. Just before the massacre, he seemed unwell and deeply paranoid, Reiterman told TIME. “[I]t was very bothersome to realize that over 900 lives were in the hands of this man,” he said.

Still, many of Jones’ followers believed in his vision until the end. A note from one woman who drank the Flavor Aid was later found on his body, calling him “Dad,” as his devotees addressed him.

“I agree with your decision — I fear only that without you the world may not make it to communism,” the note reads. “Thank you for the only life I’ve known.”

Read the 1978 cover story about the Jonestown Massacre, here in the TIME Vault: Cult of Death: The Jonestown Nightmare

TIME faith

Meet Blase Cupich: Chicago’s New Archbishop

Bishop Blase Cupich, Pope Francis' first major appointment in the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church, leaves Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago
Bishop Blase Cupich, Pope Francis' first major appointment in the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church, leaves Holy Name Cathedral as part of a ritual a day ahead of his installation as the new archbishop in Chicago, Nov. 17, 2014. Jeff Haynes—Reuters

Pope Francis was said to be personally involved in Cupich’s selection

On Tuesday afternoon, Blase Cupich, former bishop of Spokane, Wash., will be installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago. Pope Francis named Cupich, 65, to the appointment in September to replace Cardinal Francis George, who is the city’s first retiring archbishop and who is fighting cancer. “This was not on my radar screen at all… I honestly thought that I was going to retire in Spokane,” Cupich says. “The Pope thought otherwise.”

The archbishop of Chicago is a key seat in the power structure of American Catholicism. The archdiocese is the country’s third-largest Catholic community with 2.2 million members — nearly half of whom are Hispanic — and a budget that tops $1 billion. Its two previous archbishops have been named cardinals.

Pope Francis was said to be personally involved in Cupich’s selection. So far the two men have had almost no direct communication — Cupich wrote the Pope a personal letter thanking him for the appointment, as is customary, but that’s it. They will likely meet for the first time in June for the presentation of the pallium, a cloak that the Pope places on the shoulders of new archbishops around the world.

Cupich is ready to hit the ground running. Known for his simple lifestyle, he brought just 20 boxes with him to Chicago, mostly of books and clothes. In a lightly edited Q&A with TIME, Cupich admits he is looking ahead to the pastoral challenges his new archdiocese faces, ranging from immigration reform to youth development to contextualizing the Church’s message about marriage and family. “I think it is a very exciting time in the life of the church,” Cupich says. “It is probably as exciting as what happened in the Second Vatican Council.”

Many people have commented that in picking you for the Chicago seat, Pope Francis was making a point about the kind of future leaders he wants in American churches. Is that overstated?

I think that the Pope has trust in every bishop that is appointed. I consider that to be the case, plus the fact that I don’t feel very comfortable carrying that burden. If I’m supposed to be at the end of the funnel of everything the Pope wants, that’s an onerous task. I think it is a very exciting time in the life of the church. It really comes down to a deeper appreciation, a more wholesome appreciation of what it means to recognize that the risen Christ is working in the life of the church. That is the basis of everything he is doing. It is not just about Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires who is now Pope Francis. It is about his being able to be attuned to where the risen Christ is active in the life of the church today, and trying in some way to point the church to that.

A lot of parishes are confused about what Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod on the Family means. How will you guide parishes on its takeaways?

I think it is important for people to not come to a conclusion too quickly about what the church is going to do … There is a commitment, as the Holy Father said, not about changing doctrine. This is about two things. First, making sure that we are looking at the full breadth of our doctrine, not just cherry-picking things that are familiar to us, but there is a whole tradition of teaching that goes back 2,000 years. Second is how do we apply that doctrine in pastoral practice. We’ve always had different accommodations for people who are on the journey, who are on the way, to bring them along. I think that those are the kinds of things and nuances that have to be worked out and that we have to speak about, but we have to do it in a way that is unifying. We have to make sure that everybody comes together. That is the role of the Holy Father.

What other themes are you thinking about this year?

You think about immigration, you think about jobs, about the economy — those are experienced in families. They impact marriage. That is the context I’m going to use this year to speak about those issues, to have people reflect on them, how do we approach those various areas and what needs to be done to improve those areas as it impacts families, as it impacts marriages, as it helps children. I think that this year, given the synod, I’m going to contextualize all of those questions that way.

Tell me about your preaching style. Do you like preaching?

I like it more than the people who listen to me! I did my doctoral dissertation on the lectionary readings that we use at mass, and how you have Biblical texts that have been taken out of their original Bible context and put together for mass, and now they form a new text. Out of that new text there is an interplay of new meaning … I try to be sensitive to the power of language, to the power of language that God uses to reveal something about what Christ is doing in our time. That is why I’m always excited about preaching, because there is always something new. Christ uses our imagination, uses the power of language and human speech in order to make present what he is doing … I was really grateful to have a chance to have some really in depth study about the power of language, using a philosopher who taught at the University of Chicago, by the name of Paul Ricoeur. I’m really happy to be in Chicago because a lot of what I do is rooted in his approach to language.

What do you make of the flurry of press coverage over your appointment?

It is tough to get used to. I was a big nobody before all of this, and I still consider myself to be that. One of my family members, having seen all the press coverage and watching the internet videos on me, said, ‘I don’t really get it. You are not that interesting.’ So that keeps me humble. You can always count on family to do that for you.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Says Children Have a Right to a Father and a Mother

VATICAN-POPE
Pope Francis kisses a baby during an audience with members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican on Nov. 15, 2014. Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images

The statement seems at odds with the Vatican leader's push to make the church more accepting of nontraditional families

Pope Francis caused quite a stir on Monday with a statement that was criticized as a rolling back of his much lauded attempts to make the Catholic Church more inclusive of the LGBT community.

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” said the Pope during a speech at the Complementarity of Man and Woman conference in Rome.

The statement, made to the attending conservative religious leaders around the world, was the only concrete reference the Pope made to heterosexuality, with the rest of the speech remaining largely ambiguous on the concept of complementarity between man and woman.

Many religious leaders present at the conference took this to mean an unequivocal support of traditional families. “Pope Francis made clear that male/female complementarity is essential to marriage and cannot be revised by contemporary ideologies,” Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted.

However, the Pontiff’s announcement at the conclusion of his speech that he will attend Philadelphia’s World Meeting of the Families in September was conversely deemed a nod toward more acceptance of nontraditional families.

Sister Simone Campbell, an advocate on various social-justice issues who has taken on the church in the past, predicted that there would be several nontraditional families present at the Philadelphia conference. “He’s bringing in the various realities and letting people speak for themselves, and that creates change,” Campbell told the Washington Post. “He’s opening hearts. He’s not changing definitions.”

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